Sports have fans which is pretty normal. Whether you cheer for an athlete or a team, you are a fan. You do not have to be a very avid or passionate fan, in the sense that you take every bad hit or toss or play to heart. But some fans are. There is such a thing as fan culture and it can get very obsessive and in some cases, dangerous. It can be dangerous to the very fan as well as someone perhaps cheering for a rival team.

Fan culture has been studied by psychologists and football, like any other sports, has its fair share of fans who are no strangers to all kinds of extremes.

Let us examine the fan mentality from a more professional viewpoint.

The Question of Identity

Fans are often people who love many things, but sometimes passionately feel every performance of their favorite athlete or team.

Psychologists have determined that some fans integrate their team as a part of their identity, much like they would their gender, family, ethnicity and even nationality. Some people self-identify with a team, where their lives are affected based on the team’s wins and losses.

But why does one want to identify with a team in the first place?

I Want to Belong – Loneliness and Socialization

There are many factors as to why someone might add a team or athlete to their identity, but more often than not, people simply want to belong. Socialization is very important for human beings and wearing a team’s jersey and finding another fan with one will spark an instant connection and a topic to cover.

Going to a local bar with other fans of the same team will leave you with a very stable sense of belonging. Some fans have even had arguments with their families over football teams, choosing the team (because the family members are often fans of rival teams).

The need to socialize and belong also drives a fan to become a bit more passionate about their favorite, which can signal loneliness.

A Stable Foundation Leads to a Stable Human (Somewhat)

If you have a favorite team and you cheer for them, that also means that you have some rival teams, some allies and some who you are neutral towards. This gives you a solid plan of what your game-viewing experience is going to be like. 

A team’s success often leads to the person feeling that success, a transfer, if you will. This helps people build self-confidence. The Big 3 in tennis, for example, inspire a lot of fans because they win so much. When your favorite team wins a lot, you start feeling some of those victories as your own. This transfer leads to more self esteem, which people might be lacking otherwise, due to many factors.

Yet wins are not everything and some fans would rather just belong, than have their team win all the time. Band wagoners (fans who jump to the current winning team), do not share the same feelings and belong to the same group as long-standing fans. Belonging is always more important than a win (even though wins are cherished).

Fans can be passionate about a team due to many reasons, but a sense of belonging and identity are among the first. That can lead to a higher self confidence if a team is performing and to more aggressive reactions when they lose, depending on the individual, of course.